SEASON Reviews are usually done at the end of the season. (Duh.) A few are done at the halfway mark, and/or at the end. Starting in 2017, Eaglemaniacal.com began treating the season like a game, and breaking it into four quarters. Since football is a hard sport, we’ll take a hard look, at where our team stands at the moment (in relation to where it started), and where it needs to go.
4 – 4 overall, 1 – 0 division, 2 – 3 conference, 2nd place in the NFC East
L: Minnesota (4 – 3 – 1)
W: New York Giants (1 – 7)
L: Carolina (5 – 2 )
W: Jacksonville (3 – 5 )
Injuries are part of any football team’s season, but the bug seems to LOVE us. For the second year in a row, all you can do is shake your head at the number and severity of our losses. We have a LT who was battling his way through a torn bicep, when the RT sprained a knee ligament, and will now miss a month. The right side of our 2018 projected starting Defensive Line is now on Injured Reserve. Starting RB, gone for the year. Deep threat starting WR, gone. Starting FS is on IR. Our reserve FS is out. Nickel Corner, out.
Yet here we sit. At 4 – 4. Still in the hunt.
The stated mission last quarter was to tighten up the pass defense to improve our pressure up front. There was marginal statistical improvement across the board, except for takeaways. In the first 4 games, the Defense surrendered 1,161 yards on 103/159 passing (64.7%) allowing 7 touchdowns and grabbing 3 interceptions. In these last 4 games, the Defense surrendered 1,137 yards on 103/160 passing (64.3%) allowing 4 touchdowns and grabbing only 1 interception. We collected 11 sacks in both quarters so far.
Given the nasty injuries we’re dealing with in the Secondary, which have us starting a rookie (out of position) at FS, it’s hard to poo-poo these seemingly meager improvements.
We still have some things to sort out on Offense, however. For one, we need a proper run game. I won’t write a book here for it, but if you read my last one, then you know how we can do that up nice.
QB: (A) Carson Wentz has been nothing short of AMAZING over these last 4 games. He’s posted a 10:1 touchdown to interception ratio, a 73.1 completion percentage, 1,185 yards, and an average yards per attempt of 8.5. He’s been killing it. He’s also been sacked 12 times. Some on him and some not.
RB: (D) This was an “A” last quarter (read why HERE). It would be an “F” this quarter if injuries to the Offensive Line, and scheme issues didn’t also play a contributing role in the fall-off in quality. But that’s all the curve I can give this group. The fact is, to a man, none of them has shown themselves to be an individual difference maker. Wendell Smallwood has gotten the bulk of the work, and has shown no ability to be explosive, elusive, or physical as a ball carrier. He’s the anti-Zeke. Starve him. Corey Clement has 52 yards on 23 carries in the last three games. He is however, still dealing with a lingering quad injury that already cost him two games, so the Eagles have limited his role as he works his way back. Rookie Josh Adams had the best day of any Eagles back since starter Jay Ajayi went out on IR during Week 5. Adams isn’t terribly physical as a runner, but he does provide more POP than the other two backs on the roster.
TE: (A) L’embarras du choix. Which is pronounced…
Pardon my French. That phrase means “Embarrassment of riches”. Right now in Zach Ertz leads all NFL TE’s with 61 catches so far. He’s tied with WR Odell Beckham for most catches in the NFL, and behind only WR Adam Thielen. In the last 4 games he has two 100 yard games and a touchdown in all but one week. Rookie Dallas Goedert looks like a seasoned pro out there, grabbing a touchdown in both of our last two games. Josh Perkins hasn’t caught a ball in the last 6 weeks, but we haven’t needed him to.
WR: (D) Yes we added Golden Tate. However, this report is about how Eagles players did during this last quarter. Tate wasn’t an Eagle, so this is about the guys who were.
Alshon Jeffery leads the team with 4 scoring grabs, 3 of which came in the last 4 games. Jordan Matthews doesn’t see a lot of targets, but he’s made the most of them when he does. His hands have been reliable, and he’s averaging 17.5 per catch over these last 4 outings. Nelson Agholor simply isn’t doing enough in the slot, and he may be the reason why we traded for Tate. Without a deep threat to open space underneath, Agholor has been rendered harmless. In the last 4 games, no one at this position has had a 100 yard day, only Jeffery has scored, and only once have two players had 50 or more yards in the same game.
OT: (D) Injuries be damned, LT Jason Peters is plowing through the season like a Mack truck going downhill, with no brakes. He is leaving everything, every ounce out on the field, in what looks like an unannounced swan song. Both he and RT Lane Johnson have had an issue of letting rushers leak underneath, after elongating the pocket. They need to start dictating a stop point. That is, when Johnson gets back from the month he’s about to miss with an MCL sprain. This should manageable though, since Halapoulivaati Vaitai is better suited to the Right. Rookie Jordan Mailata, was promoted to the active roster for Week 7, so his debut could be very very near.
OG: (D) For the first 4 games we had Stefen Wisniewski starting a LG, for the last 4 we’ve had Isaac Seumalo. Pressure up the gut has become a real problem. So has being unable to generate a new line of scrimmage on run plays. Some of that is scheme, but some of it is stepping down in terms of talent. Wiz is a battler, while Seumalo is kind of soft.
C: (D) I’ve WATCHED a couple plays in this quarter where Jason Kelce went to double a guy and had a man smoke right past him. Someone is doing a poor job of identifying secondary rushers, as well as stunt keys. That job is usually reserved for this position.
DE: (C ) Losing Derek Barnett was a big blow. He was playing very solid vs both the pass and the run. Brandon Graham isn’t producing the sacks that he was a year ago, but his run defense has been as good as it ever was. Chris Long is doing a good job of applying heat to QB’s, but he’s proving susceptible to off-Tackle runs, since this scheme frequently plays a LB inside the DE-DT gap, instead of outside of the DE, to set the edge. Michael Bennett is logging time at DE and DT, and is also second on the team with 3.5 sacks. Rookie Josh Sweat needs to show the coaches something if he wants to earn more meaningful playing time. This is a group that is playing very good team defense, but they aren’t delivering big plays, in big moments.
DT: (C ) Fletcher Cox has come in playing like a man on a mission. He leads the team with 4 sacks, and is a MAN about defending his area vs the run. Haloti Ngata has been nicked up recently, probably due to playing more minutes than were anticipated when he signed. Treyvon Hester has started a game, but all indications are that he’s just a guy. Destiny Vaeao was waived and Timmy Jernigan has yet to return from the Non-Injured/Reserve list. This has taken a massive toll on last year’s stellar rotation strategy, but sprinkling in some Michael Bennett is keeping this unit from being a one man show. Word from on high, has it that Jernigan may make his return right after the Eagles Bye week.
OLB: (C ) This group still has yet to stand out, but they haven’t been a liability either. Nigel Bradham and Kamu Grugier-Hill have the athleticism to do all kinds of things, but they aren’t being utilized with any creativity.
MLB: (A) Jordan “Cowboy Killer” Hicks had 31 tackles in the 1st quarter, and he topped that with 40 in the second quarter. He also added 1.5 sacks to bring his 2018 total to 3 so far. Coming into this season he had 2 total for his career. Hicks is stepping his game all the way up, but you never hear his name outside of Philly.
S: (D) Malcolm Jenkins is the emotional and mental heart and soul of the Secondary, but we need him to force more turnovers. With Rodney McLeod done for the year, Jenkins needs to lead by example more than by words. Corey Graham was tasked with filling in for McLeod and was promptly injured. Filling in for Graham, is rookie CB turned FS Avonte Maddox. Maddox just looks thrilled to be playing, even if it’s not his true position. He’s throwing his body around, playing with reckless abandon, and has even made a couple of plays. CB/S tweener, Rasul Douglas is being groomed to play this spot. Like the DE position, S is playing solid team concept ball, but fails to deliver in tight spots and big moments. Injuries here have impacted us severely.
CB: (D) We allow too many QB’s to leave the game with high completion percentages.
LS: (C ) He snaps the ball. Whoop-dee-do.
P: (B) Cameron Johnston punted 15 times this quarter, for 9 returned, and 3 fair caught. Same as last quarter on 5 fewer punts. He hasn’t been hitting them as hard and as a result, none of his boots have ended as touchbacks. In fact, 5 of them were downed inside the 20, with one out of bounds. Johnston isn’t great with his placement yet, but he’s working on it.
K: (C )Making 6 of 8 field goals (75% same as last quarter) Jake Elliott is reliable, but he has yet to show off the big leg that catapulted him into Eagles lore, last year.
PR/KR: (C ) On 10 punt returns DeAndre Carter is averaging 10.3 per attempt, with a long of 42. On kickoff returns he’s posting 20.4, with a long of 30. serviceable, but not scary. We need scary.
KC: (D) Last quarter we gave up 16.0 yards per kickoff return. This quarter we’re giving up 26.0. That number will only encourage returners to not take the fair catch. Punt returns went up too. 5.6 per return in Q1, then 8.1 in Q2.
SINCE LAST QUARTER:
We continue to be inconsistent. Despite increasingly amazing play from Wentz, the Offense seems stuck in neutral. The lack of a credible run game prevents us from being able to close out games, and rest our Defense.
Special Teams has forgotten about the importance of winning the hidden yardage battle. Or to wait until a game is over before you celebrate.
MISSION FOR THIS QUARTER:
Find a run game! Three of our next four games are division rivals, and we can’t beat them if we can’t run.